4 February 2015

Minty aromatic pulled lamb pittas

As with the Stellar Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks, the gorgeous (huge!) rolled and boned piece of lamb shoulder came (delivered by courier, still frozen) from Farmer's Choice Free Range Ltd., for me to "play with" and develop a recipe for them to feature on their website.

I spent a week or so thinking about what to do with it.  Yes, I could have just roasted it and had the biggest slap up roast lamb dinner of all time - and it would have been utterly memorable - but you know me, things like that just seem too easy.  If every blogger does that, then how does it demonstrate what joe public could be enjoying?

I don't believe in "fiddling about" with a gorgeous product just for the sake of it - if it is something different, something a bit out of the ordinary to begin with, then I'll honour that and do the simplest thing available, so as to make the product the star of the show.

36 hours of marination is up - time to cook!
Now in this case, in no way am I implying that this gorgeous lamb shoulder was run of the mill.  I mean, just look at it!  No, it was quite the opposite.  I can honestly say I have never had a rough piece of meat from Farmer's Choice Free Range, they have all been quite special in their own right.  The lamb was no different, no more fatty than you would expect a good quality piece of lamb to be and with great muscle development, which gives you lovely lines of lean meat.  However, it was a simple rolled and boned lamb shoulder.  A normal Sunday roast cut of meat.  So, what to do with it, that makes it a little bit out of the ordinary?

I'm sue you won't be surprised to hear that I tossed probably dozens of ideas out before I finally hit upon "the one".

Just an hour of cooking time left to go - and smelling amazing.
Out in foodie circles, there is much talk of pulled pork - which has translated to the supermarkets and burger restaurants.  Even our local pizza chain is now offering pulled pork on their pizzas.  So, how about pulled lamb?  Let's develop a complimentary marinade or rub for the lamb, then slow roast it to render most of the fat - and pull it.  Oooh yes, now this is sounding good.  Serve the pulled lamb in a wholemeal pitta bread (the wholemeal ones have way more flavour), with a minted yoghurt sauce?  Yup.  Maybe some roast sweet potato chips (fries) alongside and a little salad for freshness.  Well there you have it.  The recipe suddenly almost wrote itself.

Why, oh why, can't blogging use smellivision?
I knew that I wanted to include mint in the marinade, because lamb with mint is just the BEST thing.  As for what spices to include, well I knew about the North African spices - Ras al Hanout, Harissa - but I didn't fancy those too much.  After all, Ras al Hanout has rose petals in it.  Rose and mint?  Maybe in a sweet - not with lamb though.  Harissa can be quite harsh and lamb doesn't need harsh treatment.

So I looked at a lot of lamb recipes just to get my head focused more on what I didn't want, rather than what I did want, to put with the lamb.  Then I went to the spice cupboard and started putting spices together.  I wound up with quite a list, but it smelled fantastic.  Added sea salt and black pepper, that was a given.  Now lamb can be quite fatty - so I wasn't pushed to decide upon how much extra to give the joint, just a little olive oil to cheer along the upper layers.  However, the marinade needed (by this time it was definitely a marinade, not a rub) more liquid.  I didn't have any fruit juice in at the time but I did have two oranges.  Mmmn, orange zest and juice!  Yes, that would work!  Oh and garlic - lamb just has to have garlic.  I did contemplate including a couple of anchovies too, but felt that was probably a bit out there in conjunction with everything else.

Quite incredibly moist, soft and tender lamb.  Just wonderful.
My goodness but what a powerful, aromatic marinade it turned out to be.  Even encased in a freezer bag - with the lamb, obviously - every time you opened the fridge door, the marinade reached out (aromatically, obviously), grabbed you by the nose and slammed your head (in a friendly kind of a way) into the freezer compartment.  In the end, for the good of everyone involved (including the milk, because nobody fancied marinated milk in their tea), I had to put the marinated lamb into a second freezer bag, which just about managed to contain the beast.  Containing the beast was very necessary, because I was taking this marinading seriously and had put everything together some 36 hours before I was due to cook the lamb.  I wanted to give those flavours time to really get to work!

Be generous with the lamb, it is too good to leave in the tin!
Amazingly, considering how the marinade had behaved on the way, when it came to releasing the lamb into the roasting dish, it had really settled down!  Mellowed, even.  You know how lamb can smell really lamby, some times?  Well this smelled really fresh and so yummy.  I didn't want the dish to run dry during its long cooking time, so added a little water.  Into the oven it went, swimming around in its paddling pool of flavour.

After an hour or so, even with having sealed it as far as was possible with silver foil, the smell from the oven was just amazing.  There was no one aroma that was dominant (well, apart from lamb anyway!), it had just all amalgamated into a gorgeous whole.  I checked it half way through - just to make sure it had enough water - and gave it a little baste.

By the end of the cooking time, our mouths were watering.

Pulling the lamb was the simplest thing.  If, like me, you have family members who are a bit fat phobic, it is very easy to pick out any fatty bits en route.  The lamb just fell apart and was so moist and juicy - no dry, miserable pulled lamb here.  Two forks and a large dish and in just a couple of minutes the dish was full and I was surrounded by hopeful (but disappointed) dogs.  I recommend adding a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking liquid to the pulled lamb, so that when it has to wait for you to prepare the breads and serve the side dishes, there is no worry about it drying out - and why not capitalise on all the flavours that are contained in the cooking liquid?

Speaking of the cooking liquid, I have kept what was in the roasting dish as I have some (as yet) vague plans to make a soup with it.  Well, it was too good to throw away!  Just set it aside for the fat to set, then you can pour the stock out from underneath with no difficulty.

Apologies for there being no lamb in this picture ...
I served the lamb with a yoghurt, mint, cucumber & caper sauce drizzled over and some yummy mint jelly under (the vinegary flavours of a standard mint sauce would work too), in the wholemeal pitta bread.  Absolutely divine.

The flavours that the marinade brought to the lamb were in no way overpowering.  I was so happy with that!  The citrus juice had helped to tenderise the meat and even though I was expecting some warmth from the black pepper and cayenne pepper, it was so subtle.  Beautiful.

Everyone loved this recipe and there were murmurs of disappointment when told "no, there's none left".  Of course, I didn't tell them about the other half of the joint that I'd put in the freezer.  *wink*  Let it be a lovely surprise one day!

A fantastically easy recipe, the very next time you lay your hands on a piece of lamb - and I recommend you have a look at the Farmer's Choice website, to see what they've got - give this a go.  You can't possibly regret it.  Even if you don't pull the lamb and just go with a roast dinner, the flavour of the lamb won't disappoint.  However, the combination of the lamb, the sauce, the mint jelly and pitta bread is just perfect.  Go on, give it a go!


Ingredients :

1kg boned and rolled, lamb shoulder

For the marinade :

1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 oranges, zest and juice
50ml olive oil
1 and a half tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
half a tsp cayenne pepper
half a tsp ground cumin
half a tsp ground cardamom
half a tsp ground allspice
quarter of a tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp plain yoghurt (Greek or Goat yoghurt are best)
3 inch piece of cucumber
1 tsp capers, chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped finely
8 wholemeal pitta bread
Mint jelly to taste.

Method :

1.  Between 48 and 36 hours before you plan to cook the lamb, place all the marinade ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

2.  Take the lamb and pierce 2 inches into the piece repeatedly all over, with a sharp butcher's knife.  This will allow the marinade to really get in there and do its work.

3.  Place the lamb into a large stout plastic freezer bag and pour the marinade over.  Seal the bag and turn over repeatedly until the lamb is entirely covered.  I recommend you then place it into another large stout plastic freezer bag, as I discovered the aromas were very good at escaping!

4.  Put the bagged lamb into a dish - just in case of leakage - and keep it in your fridge until around an hour or so before you plan to cook it.  Turn the lamb over, to redistribute the marinade, whenever you pass by.

5.  Pre-heat the oven to 140degC/275degF/Gas 1, it shouldn't take long!

6.  Line a large roasting tin with a double layer of silver foil.  This will help when it comes to doing the dishes and you'll be glad you did.

7.  Open the bag and tip the lamb together with the marinade, into the lined roasting dish.  Add up to 500ml of water around the lamb (don't wash the marinade off the actual joint though!) and cover it all tightly with more silver foil.

8.  Place into the oven for the next three and half hours.  Check it half way through, just to make sure that the liquid levels are good.  Add a little more water, if necessary.

9.  In the meantime, make the yoghurt sauce by placing the yoghurt into a bowl.

10.  Using a fine grater, grate the cucumber into the bowl and add the capers, fresh mint, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.  Stir to combine, then set aside in the fridge for the flavours to develop.

11.  Remove the top layer of silver foil from the lamb when there is a half an hour to go.  This will help colour the lamb and develop the flavours.

12.  Once the cooking time is up, remove the lamb from the roasting tin onto a chopping board.  I recommend dealing with half at a time, so cut it in half and return the other half to the roasting tin, cover it with foil, to keep warm.

13.  Using two forks, pull the lamb apart into shreds.  It is fairly easy to remove any large lumps of fat at this stage, if you so require.  Once the first half is pulled, move on to the second half.  Once the lamb is pulled, add two tablespoonfuls of the cooking liquid to the meat and set aside to keep warm while you prepare the pitta bread.

14.  Lightly toast the pitta bread and make a slit down one side of each.

15.  Smooth a teaspoonful of mint jelly (or you could use mint sauce if the sweet flavour of jelly isn't to your liking) onto one side of each pitta bread.

16.  Fill each pitta generously with pulled lamb, then add two teaspoonfuls or so of the yoghurt sauce.

Serve with oven baked sweet potato fries and a small salad.

Printable version


  1. Oh wow what a fab post. That just looks like a stunning piece of lamb. Such a brilliant idea and the marinade sounds gorgeous. I'm definitely using my slow cooker this weekend!! Wish I could reach in and take a huge chunk. Fatty bits and all!!

    1. Awww thanks, Dom! I'll race you to the fatty bits. LOL ;)


I love to receive messages from you all, so if you can spare the time, comment away!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...